Archive for July 21st, 2010

Rumors of God’s retirement

| July 21, 2010 | 1 Reply
Rumors of God’s retirement

Direct from The Onion:

[T]he Divine Creator fielded questions regarding rumors of his possible retirement.

“I’ve been at this a long time,” said God, ∞, the all-knowing, all-powerful being who has presided over the cosmos since forming it from sheer nothingness nearly 14 billion years ago. “And the truth is, this was never something I planned on doing forever. Lately, in fact, I’ve begun to wonder if I should move on sooner rather than later.”

Over the past few centuries, God has on numerous occasions deflected speculation that his reign might be winding down, but his remarks Tuesday appeared to signal a shift in celestial policy. . . .

God mentioned that he deeply lamented missing his only child’s once-in-a-lifetime crucifixion.

“Your son’s down there being martyred in front of all these people, but you can’t be there for it,” said God, his voice cracking slightly. “He thought I’d forsaken him. Of course, I was tied up working on something that seemed important at the time but that I can’t even remember now. And I’ll never get that moment back.”

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On unemployment benefits

| July 21, 2010 | Reply
On unemployment benefits

I agree with Dylan Ratigan on at least one aspect of unemployment benefits:

I don’t even agree with the current unemployment program in this country. I believe people should have to volunteer for a non-profit for 10-20 hours a week to qualify for unemployment. However, our vote-loving politicians like to keep their jobs by giving future generation’s money away for nothing in return.

William Black echoes this sentiment.

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Jane Goodall discusses the future of chimpanzees

| July 21, 2010 | 2 Replies
Jane Goodall discusses the future of chimpanzees

In the July 2010 edition of Nature (available online only to subscribers) Jane Goodall calls for urgent action to save chimpanzees “our closest living relatives,” from extinction in the wild.

It never ceases to amaze me that humans will go to great lengths to wonder about and investigate whether even the smallest life form exists on another planet, yet we allow a dwindling populations of amazing animals to perish on our own planet. We just can’t stop increasing the numbers of human animals on this planet, even as our water and soil are being depleted worldwide. We can’t even talk about this issue. We just can’t stop expanding into the last few patches of jungle in order to chop down the habitats of other animals in order to grow more food to feed more humans, all the while proclaiming that we “care” about preserving the environment and that the last thing we would do is to steal from our children. Nonetheless, we are stealing our children’s opportunity to live on a planet that includes natural populations of chimpanzees.

When I think about how we are killing off so many species of plants and animals, it distresses me; it even makes me feel sick. It’s hard for me to hide my frustration and to think positively, because the news is 95% bad. Everywhere, the news is the same: humans are expanding into new areas, forcing out and destroying native plants and animals. We are destroying a planet that we claim to treasure.

Jane Goodall is working harder than I am to keep an upbeat attitude, at least in public, even though she sees the decimation of chimpanzee communities up close and first-hand. She is also making real progress to encourage the world to change its ways in order to preserve chimpanzee habitats. Fifty years ago, she traveled to Gombe Stream National Park to observe its then-large populations of chimpanzees. In the 50 years since her arrival, she has ceaselessly engaged in research, education, advocacy and fundraising. What is so special about chimpanzees? Why should humans care more about chimpanzees?

As analytical methods have evolved, work with the chimpanzees of Gombe has provided a profound understanding of humans’ relationship with animals. From this and research elsewhere we now know, for example, of numerous similarities between human and chimpanzee brain structures and any insistence, and how alike the two species are genetically: there is about 1.5% difference between human and chimpanzee DNA. There are striking parallels between chimpanzee and human non-verbal communication: an embrace, holding hands and a pat on the back mean essentially the same thing in both species. We also understand much about the intellectual abilities of chimpanzees and the complexity of their motions, which seem remarkably like ours. . . . as our knowledge about chimpanzees has increased, their existence has come under increasing threat.

In 1900, there were more than 1 billion chimpanzees in Africa; today, despite all our achievements, fewer than 300,000 remain in the wild, many in fragmented and isolated populations. Some conservationists have suggested the species will be extinct in the wild in 30 years.

Goodall wrote this article in nature and to promote the work of TACARE, which has integrated traditional conservation approaches with a range of environmentally sustainable rural development strategies. Goodall notes that thanks to efforts of many organizations, including TACARE, “although population and the rate of deforestation nearly doubled between 1991 and 2003, more recent satellite images suggests that deforestation is finally beginning to slow.”

This is not good news, but it’s smaller amounts of bad news, which is a glimmer of hope.

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Varieties of life under the sea

| July 21, 2010 | Reply
Varieties of life under the sea

I am continually amazed at the wide variety of shapes of plant and animal life. Today, I ran across this series of photos of sea life, some of it from the deep sea. If I had been asked to design a new underwater life form, my imagination would not possibly have been able to concoct functioning animals like these. It’s incredible that each of these life forms continues to live today, the successor to a long series of earlier and simpler life forms.

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Mark Tiedemann wraps up

| July 21, 2010 | 1 Reply
Mark Tiedemann wraps up

Over the past few days, I’ve been publishing sections of an engaging discussion with Mark Tiedemann that I videotaped about a year ago. I only recently got around to cutting the session up into individual videos, but the delay allowed me to enjoy the discussion anew, and it also allowed me to appreciate more than ever that the topics that draw Mark’s attention tend to be relatively timeless. As you can probably see, this discussion was spontaneous. I went to Mark’s house with a video camera and a few general topics scribbled down, no specific agenda. We both allowed the conversation go where it wanted to go.

In these final two videos from last year’s discussion, the topics are VI) The importance of knowing history and VII) Church and State.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Mark as much as I have. If you’d like to know more about Mark’s way of viewing and analyzing the world, he has already posted almost 200 articles at DI, all of them readily available.

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